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Seattle Fire’s new Health One team for homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health issues ready to hit the streets of Capitol Hill


Seattle has a new team of first responders on its streets starting today. Staffed with specially trained Seattle Fire Department firefighters and a civilian social worker, Health One has rolled out to help address the issues of homelessness and basic human health needs that are swamping Seattle’s emergency services.

The new pilot program will be focused on the city’s downtown core — including Capitol Hill — providing “alternatives to transporting individuals to emergency departments” and “allowing SFD units to focus on emergencies like structure fire and vehicle collisions,” the city says.

“We are taking an important step for a healthier downtown. As our city grows, our ability to deliver emergency and non-emergency responses needs to keep up. Here in Seattle, we pioneered Medic One, which became the gold standard in emergency health response and now we are pioneering Health One for non-emergency cases,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in the launch announcement

A special vehicle will serve as the Health One unit and be stationed at SFD Headquarters at 2nd Ave and Main St. The unit will operate from 9 AM to 7 PM, Monday through Thursday, “responding to calls in the downtown core and adjacent neighborhoods, to include Capitol Hill,” the city announcement reads.

The response team will be ready to assist with treatment, care, and resources. “Referral and transport resources” will include urgent and primary care, next day appointments, connection with behavioral health organizations, referral to homeless outreach and shelters, case management within SFD’s High Utilizer and Vulnerable Adult programs and more. In addition to standard emergency medical services equipment, the Health One vehicle is also equipped with “outreach supplies for unsheltered clients.”

In 2018, 42% of SFD’s medical calls were deemed “low acuity” calls — calls where the department dispatched its resources that “generally resulted in no action or a non-emergency transport,” CHS reported earlier this year as the plan for Health One came together.

An initial $500,000 in funding powered the start of creating a “a mobile integrated health program” within Seattle Fire. As part of her 2020 Proposed Budget, Durkan proposed investing an additional $400,000 in mid 2020 for the Health One program bringing the total budget for he one-year pilot to $900,000.

SFD joins Seattle Police and King County Sheriff in creating special units to handle the finer points of first response in an urban environment. City officials say the new Health One effort will complement existing programs already in place such as the Seattle Police Mobile Crisis Unit and County-supported Mobile Crisis Team.

Meanwhile, Seattle Fire tells us that you can keep track of the new unit’s work in the department’s “Real Time 911” logs — look for a new “Health 1” designation to appear when the team has been dispatched.

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